Name: Adam L. D.
During a thunderstorm a bolt of lightning hit our back yard. Our neighbors
dogs had been killed by the lightning so I went in the back yard to check
on our dogs. I then saw a green glowing object on the ground. I picked it
up and realized that it was a twig (probably pine). It looked
phosphorescent in nature, but I can't be sure. It slowly lost its
luminescence in my hand and looked like an ordinary stick. I am wondering
what this might have been.
The phosphorescent green color that you saw is normally
a description of ball lightning. Ball lightning may
have rested on the twig and when you picked it up it had
lost most of it's energy (I'm assuming this since you didn't
say that the twig hurt you).
However, recent observations have shown that ball lightning,
or the characteristics of it, can also be produced by a standard
lightning bolt hitting the ground. Organic material (which
the twig is), normally soil, can be energized and send out a
small ball lightning. In your case, the twig itself may have
been the organic material that was energized and thus produced
the characteristic phosphorescent green color.
David R. Cook
Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry Section
Environmental Research Division
Argonne National Laboratory
That is an interesting observation about the glowing twig. Was it the
only one, or were there others..? It is possible that it was caused by a
lightning strike, but there should be more evidence of a strike than one
small glowing twig...
The bright flash or electrical current through the twig could possibly
chemically react with some substance in the twig to make it phosphores I
suppose, but I'm not aware of how common or rare this is...
Wendell Bechtold, meteorologist
Forecaster, National Weather Service
Weather Forecast Office, St. Louis, MO
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Update: June 2012